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by Bill Weinberg

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight against you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for oppression is worse than slaughter; but do not fight them at the sacred mosque, unless they first fight you there..."

The Koran, Surah 2, 190-1

The countdown to the promised return of "sovereignty" in Iraq June 30 is on--and the Bush administration seems scrambling to buy peace, even at the price of an Afghanistan-style ceding of power to local militias in many areas, a signal of emergent warlordism. Both centralized rule and any real soveriegn power for the US-appointed government in Baghdad appear to be fictions. And following the Abu Ghraib prison torture revelations and two months of heavy fighting, the US has squandered whatever goodwill it had on the ground in Iraq.


The official line is that both the Sunni insurgency centered around Fallujah and the Shi'ite insurgency led by Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad and the south are being brought under control. But fighting continues--as do joint Sunni-Shi'ite anti-US protests, most recently in Baghdad's Khalani Sqaure following Friday prayers May 28. (NYT, May 29)

The fighting in the south has brought some of Shia Islam's most sacred mosques into the line of fire. At Najaf's Shrine of Ali, the gold dome was hit by gunfire, and a courtyard wall was damaged in a shell blast that left several injured. (NYT, May 26)

The Shrine of Ali has long been the center of political conflict, and was damaged by Saddam in repression against the Shi'ite rebellion of 1991. ( It has more recently been contested by al-Sadr's forces and rival Shi'ite factions. (See WW3 REPORT #94)

US airstrikes also hit insurgents perilously near the Shrine of Hussein and Shrine of Abbas in the center of Karbala--both among Islam's holiest sites. (NYT, May 18) Half of Karbala's Mukhaiyam mosque was destroyed May 12 when US planes and helicopters attacked it to drive out Sadr fighters. (AP, May 13)

On May 23, 36 were killed in a US raid at a Kufa mosque. (NYT, May 24) Fighting continues in Kufa despite a May 27 truce brokered by Shi'ite leaders which calls for the Sadr forces to cease resistance as the US withdraws most of its troops from the centers of Kufa and Najaf. (NYT, May 29)

In Fallujah the minaret at the local mosque was damaged in US strikes. US officials said snipers were firing from the minaret. (AP, April 28) The city was only tentatively pacified after the US agreed to set up a local security force composed almost entirely of former members of Saddam's Republican Guard and anti-US guerilla fighters. (NYT, May 25) Gen. Jasim Muhammad Saleh--wearing his Saddam-era uniform--was selected to lead an Iraqi force to replace US troops in Fallujah. Gen. Saleh was pictured in the uniform of the outlawed army, with the crossed-sword emblem on his ephulates, shaking hands with a US Marine colonel on the front page of the New York Times. (NYT, May 1)

Up to a third of Fallujah's 200,000 residents had fled the fighting. They started to return in early May as Saleh's Fallujah Brigade took control of the town. ( AP, May 2)

On May 19, up to 45 were killed in a US air attack on Mukaradeeb village near the Syrian border at what survivors said was the scene of a wedding party. US officials said the target was a safehouse used by foreign fighters and denied there was a party at the site, but were chagrined when a video taken at the village on the eve of the airstrikes showed wedding festivities, including dancing children. The video, obtained by AP, was taken by a camerman hired for the party. The aistrikes came after the party ended, when many guests were asleep in the village. (AP, May 24)


In the wake of the horrific torture pictures which made global headlines, hundreds of detainees were released from the hated Abu Ghraib prison--but it appears that rights violations persist despite the scandal. Newsday reported May 26 charges by human rights groups and detainees' families that the US is holding at least dozens of Iraqis as "bargaining chips" to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender--in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Six US troops face court martial in the Abu Ghraib case, and one has been convicted. But civilian contractors implicated in the torture are in grey area of law, and do not yet face charges. Personnel from Titan Corp. of San Diego and CACI International of Virginia have been named. (San Diego Union-Tribune, May 29)

Six British troops also face possible court martial for a series of grave abuses at a Basra prison camp--including manslaughter charges in the beating death of one 28-year-old inmate, Baha Mousa. Reports of abuses at the hands of occupation troops are mounting in the wake of the Abu Ghraib revelations. Hadiya Taha Mahmoud, a woman from a village near Baghdad, said US troops stole her family's savings--$3,500--in a search of her home in which her husband was arrested. When a reporter said Americans would find the allegation hard to believe, she responded: "Who would have believed the pictures of this behavior at Abu Ghraib? Any kind of behavior is possible for them in Iraq. American soliders have no controls on them." (Newsday, May 11)

Human rights groups are also gathering reports that Iraqi women held at Abu Ghraib were raped by both US and Iraqi jailers. The International Occupation Watch Centre said one former detainee told of the rape of her cellmate. "She claimed she had been raped 17 times in one day by Iraqi police in the presence of American soldiers," said Iman Khamas, head of the IOWC, adding the victim had been rendered unconscious for 58 hours. Another group, the Union of Detainees and Prisoners, told of a mother of four, arrested in December, who killed herself after being raped by US guards in front of her husband at Abu Ghraib. According to the group's head, Daham al-Mohammed, the woman's sister, who helped in the suicide, said the woman had been taken into a cell where she saw her husband attached to bars. A US soldier reportedly held her by the hair to force her to look at her husband while he raped her. (Special Broadcasting Service, Australia, May 29)

The abuse at Abu Ghraib came to light after Army MP Joseph Darby alerted authorities by turning over a disc of the grisly photos. His commander, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, launched an investigation. The Wall Street Journal reported that lawyers on the staff of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq, wrote the International Committee of the Red Cross on Dec. 24, 2003, to explicitly claim that Iraqi prisoners are not subject to the Geneva Conventions--a claim the Pentagon now denies. (Houston Chronicle, May 28)

Maj. Gen. Taguba's report on the abuse was classified by the Pentagon, but a copy was obtained by journalist Seymour Hersh, who quoted it extensively in the May 10 edition of The New Yorker. Taguba found that between October and December 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib at the hands of Military Police, intelligence officers and private contractors. Among the specific abuses: "...pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape... sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in once instance actually biting a detainee." The report also found that Military Police and private contractors were directed to "set the conditions...for favorable interrogation of witnesses." The report recommended that one commander be reprimanded and that another, Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, former director of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center, be relieved of duty.

Gary Myers, attorney for one of the accused, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, told Hersh he would argue at the court martial that culpability extended far beyond his client. "I'm going to drag every involved intelligence officer and civilian contractor I can find into court," he said. "Do you really believe the Army relieved a general officer because of six soldiers? Not a chance."

Meanwhile, White House officials including the president have been shown at least a dozen more Abu Ghraib photos which have not yet been released to the press or public. A spokesman said Bush reacted to the photos with "deep disgust and disbelief." But the president has resisted calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down, insisting he is doing a "superb job." (Newsday, May 11)

Beirut's English-language Daily Star noted wryly in a May 24 editorial that the Abu Ghraib revelations hit the press days after Bush boasted that "As a result [of the US invasion] there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq."

See also WW3 REPORT #95


As in Fallujah, the US is ceding some level of control to local armed factions nearly throughout Iraq--if more quietly. The New York Times reported May 25 that the Shi'ite Badr and Dawa militias are being tolerated, largely on promises by their leaders not to oppose the US. The Badr Brigade's Abu Hassan al-Ameri told the Times: "All our guns have been licensed by the Americans." In north, the Kurdish pershmerga militias have remained intact, with the same commanders--just changing to the uniform of the new Iraqi army.

The 10,000-strong Badr Brigade is controlled by the pro-Iran Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), now cooperating with the Governing Council. See WW3 REPORT #87

The Dawa group was founded by Muhammed Baqir al-Sadr, a legendary Shi'ite dissident executed by Saddam in 1980 (and a relative of Moqtada al-Sadr). It initially opposed the US invasion, but has also since been cooperating with the occupation and Governing Council. See WW3 REPORT #83

A comprehensive dossier on Iraq's Shi'ite factions can be found on the web site of the arch-conservative Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (MEIB).

New resistance groups are also quickly emerging. The Arab Resistance Group/al-Rashid Brigades claimed responsibility when Izzadine Saleem, president of the Governing Council and a prominent Shi'ite newspaper editor, was killed in a Green Zone checkpoint suicide blast May 17. The US blamed the Jordan-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is being sensationalized as the latest new terrorist mastermind. (Newsday, May 18) Al-Zarqawi was also blamed in the April 21 five-bomb coordinated attacks targetting Basra police stations, which left up to 68 dead--overwhelmingly civilians and including 23 children who were on a passing school bus. The attacks were timed for rush hour. (NYT, April 22)

Al-Zarqawi was also said to be behind the notorious video-recorded beheading of Pennsylvania cellular communications entrepreuner Nick Berg, who was apparently abduced while making for the Syrian border. But much fodder was provided for Internet conspiracy theorists by the startling revelations that Berg had been detained for two weeks by US forces in Iraq at FBI request, that his left-wing father Michael is a vocal opponent of the Iraq war (who publicly blamed Bush for his son's beheading)--and that accused "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui had used Nick's e-mail password. ( ChronWatch, May 30; South Africa Sunday Times, May 13) Even mainstream commentators were perplexed that the video of his murder shows Berg in an orange jumpsuit of the kind worn by US-held prisoners in Iraq. A virtual mini-industry has sprung up on dissecting and pointing out anomalies in the grisly footage--including allegations of flash cameos by apparent US personnel. (IslamOnLine, May 24)

Al-Zarqawi was previously described as leader of Ansar al-Islam, an insurgent group in Iraqi Kurdistan. If new media accounts are to be believed, he is now expanding his operations throughout Iraq. See WW3 REPORT #96


Iyad Alawi, leader of the CIA-backed Iraqi National Accord and a secular Shi'ite neurologist, was chosen by the (soon-to-be-disbanded) Governing Council May 28 as interim prime minister of the new Iraqi transition government, which is to last from June 30 through January. Alawi is seen as the US favorite, and a rival candidate backed by the UN was bypassed. (NYT, May 29) Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni tribal leader who has been harshly critical of the occupation, was named by the Governing Council to the largely ceremonial post of interim president. Al-Yawar has been Governing Council president since sitting president Izzadine Saleem was assassinated in mid-May. (UPI, June 1) An hour after al-Yawar was chosen, a car bomb killed three and injured 11 in downtown Baghdad. (Newsday, June 2)

The former US favorite, Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, had his home and offices near Baghdad ransacked in May 20 raid by US troops, and his aide Aras Karim Habib was arrested on suspicion of spying for Iran. (Australian Broadcasting Company, May 26)

For more on Chalabi's shady past, see WW3 REPORT #s:


Former top Pentagon advisor Richard "Prince of Darkness" Perle, one of Chalabi's closest allies in Washington, called the attack on his friend "an outrageous abuse of power." (NYT, May 29)

In an arrogant case of 20-20 hindsight, Perle, who had been a vigorous advocate of the Iraq campaign, told BBC Radio: "I would be the first to acknowledge we allowed the liberation [of Iraq] to subside into an occupation. And I think that was a grave error, and in some ways a continuing error... We didn't have to find ourselves in the role of occupier. We could have made the transition that is going to be made at the end of June more or less immediately." (Toronto Star, May 26) This revisionism was a good face-saving measure for Perle. On March 27, 2003, the same day he resigned from his high-ranking Pentagon post, Perle told BBC: "This will be the short war I and others predicted... I don't believe it will be months. I believed all along that it will be a quick war, and I continue to believe that." (See WW3 REPORT #80)

Scoring higher points for integrity is Secretary of State Colin Powell, who confessed to NBC's Meet the Press NBC May 16 that intelligence on Saddam's supposed WMD capacity which featured prominently in his Feb. 5, 2003 UN address calling for war "turned out not to be accurate." It is now claimed that Chalabi was the source for much of this faulty intelligence. (Australian Broadcasting Corp., May 17)

See also WW3 REPORT #72

Chalabi was also cited as a problematic source in a startling May 26 mea culpa in the New York Times, "From the Editors: The Times and Iraq," which confessed that the paper's reportage on administration claims about Saddam' WMD capacity in the prelude to the war was "not as rigorous as it should have been." The page-10 apology (contrasting the front-page stories it was apologizing for, especially those of Judith Miller) admitted: "Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged--or failed to emerge."

See also WW3 REPORT #85


US dead in the Iraq campaign now number over 800. (NYT, May 29) The Pentagon prohibition on photos of returning coffins was lifted in April thanks to an FOIA request filed by Russ Kick of Arizona on behalf of his website, Thanks also to one courageous employee who put her job on the line to get the images out. The Maytag Aircraft Corp. of Colorado Springs, contracted by the Pentagon to fly the coffins back home, fired Tami Silico and husband after she took photos of the grim cargo and leaked them to the Seattle Times. (Newsday, April 23)

The Pentagon says it does not keep track of Iraqi civilian casualties. But the web site Iraq Body Count continues to monitor world press reports to arrive at a daily update of the total Iraqi civilian dead from war-related causes since the US campaign began last March. At press time, the minimum estimate stands at 9,187 and the maximum at 11,046.

See also WW3 REPORT #97

On May 20, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved an emergency $447 billion in military spending--including another $25 billion for the Iraq campaign. (NYT, May 21) Dozens of tanks and APCs were rushed to Iraq in early May as the fighting escalated. (NYT, April 29)

John Negroponte, appointed by Bush as US ambassador to Iraq after the June 30 handover, says the new regime will be a "caretaker government" with no power to make laws or control the security forces. (NYT, April 28) Negroponte was doubtless chosen for his demonstrated ability to effectively run puppet regimes: he was ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s when the country was established by the CIA as a staging ground for right-wing "contra" guerillas seeking to destabilize neighboring Nicaragua.

See WW3 REPORT #s:


(Bill Weinberg)


Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, June 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution


Reprinting permissible with attribution.